Last week the ABC revealed a damning study published in the Australian Veterinary Journal that showed a number of commercial supermarket cat food brands were harmful and may cause “severe illness or injury”. But those involved in the study are refusing to reveal the names of the potentially dangerous products, nor their manufacturers.
The peer reviewed study tested twenty supermarket or pet store products and found that some supermarket and pet shop cat food brands may cause lameness, diabetes, obesity, or anaemia. The chemical analysis of 10 wet and 10 dry cat foods found eight products currently for sale in supermarkets didn’t meet voluntary standards and nine didn’t meet the nutritional information advertised on their packet. Yet, neither the authors of the study, Sydney University, or the Australian Veterinary Journal will release the names of the brands keeping millions of cats at risk.
Even the $2 billion-a-year pet food industry is calling for the release of the products’ names. Despite the university denying corporate influence or funding of the study, they acknowledged sponsorships with two major brands, Hills and Royal Canin. The relationship between multinational pet food companies and university research is a direct conflict of interest, one that we see commonly even in human food research where there is a known established link between industry funded nutrition-related scientific articles never showing a negative impact of the sponsors’ product.
Whose Interests Are at Heart?
It’s quite clear that we’re not able to confidently put the health of our beloved felines in the hands of multinational pet companies and conflicted research outcomes. You should even be questioning the companies who aren’t on the twenty-list (whenever it is revealed). If we acknowledge that low-quality, processed food is nutritionally bad for humans, why do we blindly accept feeding it to our dogs and cats every single day?
We assume that pet food sold at the local supermarket must contain high levels of quality protein and all of the required vitamins and nutrients required for domesticated cats and dogs to enable them to live long, healthy lives free of diet-related diseases. But according to the ABS, the leading causes of death for cats in Australia are ischaemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases (including strokes), cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), and chronic lower respiratory diseases. These accounted for over one-third of all deaths.
The dangers of supermarket dry cat food is well known in the rumbles of rescue groups and no-kill animal shelters where the addictive high sodium content is believed to lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney problems, and some cancers. For cats, who do not have a high thirst drive, this combination can be deadly. Several online resources actively speak out against processed and dry foods for cats, citing disease and health implications, and promoting a more natural diet of raw meat that cats would access in the wild and did ancestrally. This shift has been partially driven by a movement paralleled in the human food marketplace for natural and organic products.
Regulatory bodies, like the AAFCO in America or PFIAA in Australia, are the organisations responsible for providing nutritional standards across the pet food industry. But what kind of job are they actually doing? Who are they influenced by? Can we trust the ingredients they include? Do we really believe they have companion animal interests at heart when, ultimately, their goal is to make money in their partnership with the animal agriculture industry? This unique relationship provides an economically viable off-shoot for the waste products that are generated from the human consumption market, which would otherwise hit landfill.
When we know the truth behind the relationship between animal agriculture and the pet food industry, we can begin to pull apart the well marketed ploy that fools consumers into a false sense of security. It is well documented that companion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters are rendered down and used as sources of protein in pet food in America. Not to mention dead zoo animals, 4D animals (dead, dying, diseased, disabled) from agriculture, and even road kill are part of the rendering machine that generates upwards of $6-8 billion dollars every year globally.
It is gut churning to think about and while there is seemingly no confirmation yet on whether euthanised cats and dogs are included in the Australian rendering industry process or not, there is also no confirmation as to where the approximately 250,000 per year euthanised cats and dogs actually go to safely prevent the risk of spreading disease. Australian pet food standards are largely based on America’s standards and what company or regulatory body would ignore a free protein source..?
Cat Food Alternatives
There is a growing number of people advocating for human-grade, raw meat diets for cats and dogs. Cats especially, given they are obligate carnivores and many cat food brands contain carbohydrates, which cats have no physiological or dietary requirement for. The FDA, however, cites raw meat diets as unsafe due to the potential for bacterial contamination. As a result of the FDA attempting to interfere with the raw pet food industry, many raw pet food manufacturers have begun using High Pressure Processing (HPP) to sterilise their foods without cooking them, which is where nutrients are lost.